Skip to main content

Gary Lemke 

Those who have spent more than five minutes in the sport will concur that there are no guarantees in the world of horse racing. Yet, it’s the dream of finding the next champion that keeps us coming back for more. And when it comes to the BSA National Yearling Sale there’s few better stages on where to look for that champion.

Last week Turf Talk highlighted the results of a statistical analysis done on the BSA National Yearling Sale and revealed that the odds of buying a winner at the Sale are as short as 5/10. Then, the odds lengthen and the chances of a feature race winner from this Sale are 16/1. A Grade One winner is as long as 100/1 but for someone like owner Marsh Shirtliff, who now has 28 Gr1 winners under his belt, with the latest being Pomp And Power in this year’s Cape Derby, those odds are enticing enough for him to dip into his considerable pockets.

But, how about the Sale back in 2014, when Mike Bass, who trained Pocket Power to four consecutive Queen’s Plates, three Mets and one Durban July and who raced in Shirtliff’s colours, sat down with his friend and said, “I’ve found you another July winner”.

The yearling in question was Marinaresco, a colt by Silvano out of the Fort Wood mare Gay Fortuna, and bred by Mauritzfontein. Bass, now retired and who handed over head trainer duties to his daughter Candice in 2016, takes up the story.

“He used to walk in front of the Mauritzfontein draft,” Bass recalls. “I used to watch him every day, sometimes twice a day, and watching him walk he kept catching my eye. My only reservation was that I thought he was a bit small, so I asked Candice to also come have a look. She also thought he was a bit small but liked what she saw as well.

“I looked again and thought that he was such a nice horse and that he stood out in that Mauritzfontein draft.

“So, I told Marsh about him. ‘Look Marsh, I’ve found you a Classic horse, a July horse. He’ll win you the July like Pocket Power did.’ Little did I realise that Marsh would take it to heart and wouldn’t forget when it came to the auction!

“That night the bidding was brisk. They were going up and up and getting towards the million rand mark for Marinaresco. Marsh kept going. It then hit a million and I turned to Marsh and said, ‘whoa, OK, that’s enough’. I was starting to sweat.

“Marsh looked at me and said, ‘I thought you said that he will win the July?’ And then he kept going. He really pushed the boat out,” Bass says. The hammer finally came down at R1.3-million.

Candice said that she recalled the mother, Gay Fortuna. “Although Marinaresco was small he was quality individual and he was my Dad’s pick of the sale that year. We’d first seen him on the farm at Mauritzfontein. We knew his dam – Stephen Page had her in Cape Town and she was quite a good filly and probably a bit better than her record reflected,” she says.

When Shirtliff put together the Marinaresco partnership he invited his friends Bryn Ressell and Fred Green, and Mike Bass was also invited to come on board and to train him. Marinaresco certainly lived up to expectations. 

He was runner-up in the 2016 Durban July and then a year later went one better when he became the first horse since Pocket Power in 2008 to win the race under top weight of 60kg, book-ending a fairytale story for Bass Racing and Shirtliff. To add to the occasion, Marinaresco’s win was in Candice’s first season as head trainer and she became the first woman trainer to win the July. It was the fourth July win for the stable after Trademark (2001), Dunford (2005) and Pocket Power (2008).

The full sister to Marinaresco, Marina, is currently being aimed at this year’s July, with the owners’ partnership from Marinaresco involved with Jessica Jell, in whose black and yellow Mauritzfontein colours she runs. Marina is an eight-time winner and has clearly inherited penty of her brother’s ability.

This year, with the Sale being held on Thursday and Friday this week, Mauritzfontein have 22 Lots on offer, with 14 colts and eight fillies. Danon Platina is represented by six yearlings, Querari, Silvano and Vercingetorix three, Gimmethegreenlight, Ideal World and Rafeef two and Twice Over one.

Picture: Marinaresco wins the 2017 Durban July (Sporting Post).